Reviews by MathBrush

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View this member's reviews by tag: 15-30 minutes 2-10 hours about 1 hour about 2 hours IF Comp 2015 Infocom less than 15 minutes more than 10 hours Spring Thing 2016
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T-Zero, by Dennis Cunningham

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A giant, obtuse, puzzle- and pun-filled time travel adventure, January 21, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours

I started going through my wishlist on IFDB, and this game has been on their longer than any other, because it was so intimidating I put it off. I ended up playing the ifarchive version, which uses local browser storage for saves.

I played for a while, using in-game hints and getting < 20 points out of 365, then used a walkthrough and maps from several different sites, including CASA. Even then, it was difficult to follow and required solving some puzzles independently.

If you had to play just one IF game for a very long time and didn't have access to any other, but could talk to other people, this would be a great game, because it's designed for long-term group play.

Many factors make it large. First, it has a giant map with many diagonal connections and cycles in the graph structure, and doesn't list exits automatically (unless I missed a command to turn that on; I just used the EXITS command), and this giant map exists in multiple time periods at once.

Second, many of the puzzles rely on pun-based commands, requiring a leap of intuition that can't be solved with just brute force.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, many actions have long-delayed consequences, and many items are used in scenarios quite different from the ones they're found in.

None of these are bad game-design wise, but they mean that you will spend a great deal of time on this game in order to experience its content, while many current IF games are designed to be completed in one or two sessions with little 'friction', due to the multitude of competing games and other reasons.

The plotline is buried at first but becomes stronger and stronger, especially once time travel is allowed. If the author created the first areas first, it would explain why the game starts with a mishmash of silly things (including a tortoise and a hare on a Moebius strip a suspension bridge that suspends you). Later areas have strong thematic consistency, especially the future world. There are a few other threads of plot that weave through the game consistently, like the use of opiates to expand the mind and a meteorite that makes several appearances.

The game isn't mean; it increases difficulty in generally fair ways. Hints are provided in most rooms, and a helpful friend gives you more and more commands over time that help out in a meta way (I loved FIND [ITEM] because it moves you to that room, enabling fast travel).

This would be a great game for a let's play or other group-based activity, since finding the right phrasing is good.

I don't think I'll play it again, because I just struggle with its style of expansiveness, but I enjoyed my time with it and think many others would as well.


The Usher Foundation XII: The Flesh, by Apollosboy

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Body horror with skin/flesh, last of unfinished series, January 10, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

I hadn't realized when I started this series of games based on the Magnus institute that it would just end. As far as I can tell, the creator abandoned social media (under the current name) a year or two ago.

These games were based on the Magnus Archives podcast, which has 14 archetypes of fear. The ones that were missing, and would presumably end this series, are the Web, and, appropriately, the End, or death.

This game is about the Flesh, the fear of body horror and of being eaten.

Your girlfriend is getting a scarification, with some strips of skin removed. She has it bandaged while its healing, but when the bandages are removed...

Overall, this series started out strong and had some great parts (I enjoyed the Dark, the Spiral, the Stranger, and the Eye), but kind of petered out near the end, which may be why they stopped writing it. But I think, if they ever decided to finish it, a strong ending with The Web and the End could make the whole thing kind of a masterpiece.


The Little Match Girl 2: Annus Evertens, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Dream-hopping assassination through assorted vignettes, January 9, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is a sequel to The Little Match Girl, a game that was about hopping through various fantasies to solve problems in each of them.

This game is a bit different, with a different premise (you are an assassin) and a different configuration of dreams (nested, rather than interconnected).

Like the Castle Balderstone games, this give the impression of being a grab-bag of passion projects, where some idea or thread was worked on in great detail and then the rest of a game scaffolded around it and polished till smooth.

The first few visions are pretty light and easy, just follow directions and look around. This can be fun, especially in shorter games, and the worldbuilding was nice with fun fake-outs, and there was animation and title sequences and colors, but by the end of the second one I felt like I could use a little more to dig into. The next world had more involved puzzles (with another fun fake-out), and the one after that was incredibly dense, filled with puzzles of all kind, which contrasted nicely with earlier material.

Overall:
+Polish: The game was smooth and worked well.
+Descriptiveness: The settings were very vivid, especially the second and last, and I could picture everything.
+Interactivity: Like I said above, there was a good overall balance of streamlined playthrough and puzzles.
+Emotional impact: I was entertained. At one point I took out my plans for my next game and took down some notes.
+Would I play it again? Yeah, I'll probably go through all the games in order when the others come out.


The Usher Foundation XI: The Lonely, by Apollosboy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Survive the aftermaths of a fire in a lonely watchtower, January 4, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is the 11th in a series of games based on the entities from the Magnus Archives Podcast. This one focuses on The Lonely, or the fear of being abandoned or all by yourself.

This short Twine game opens a bit slowly. You are sent to decommission a fire tower in a US national park. With no one around, you can at least take comfort in another nearby firetower and its inhabitant that signals you.

Things pick up a little bit later.

While I think this one doesn't really evoke much fear in me, compared to the others, I think its twists and the overall writing is strong. It has also the most action I've seen so far in the second, 'worldbuilding' part.


The Usher Foundation X: The Stranger, by Apollosboy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short, sad trans horror game with some overall world-building, December 30, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is the tenth game in the Usher Foundation series, in which each game is centered on one of the primal fear archetypes of the Magnus Archives Podcast.

This one is about the Stranger, which is a fear of the uncanny valley and that people around you are fake somehow.

This story is short. You are trans, and your best friend is trans. You are in high-school. Over the summer, your friend changes somehow. He appears to be detransitioning, possibly against his will.

This game is shorter than the others in the series, but has a more extended 'overarching worldbuilding' segment at the end, which is good, because I felt like that subplot had kind of stalled.


The Usher Foundation IX: The Corruption, by Apollosboy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short, horrifying insect/trypophobia twine game, December 30, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is the 9th game in the series of games based on the archetypal fears found in the Magnus Archives Podcast. This one focuses on the Corruption, which is one that really gets me, a fear of decay, disease, and insect infestations.

You are bidding on storage units to sell the stuff in them, when you find one that has a peculiar insect infestation. Later, you find out it wasn't the only thing that got infested...

The game has some nice (as in very gross) interactions with picking/popping black dots on your skin. Overall, this game made me feel deeply uncomfortable.


whoami, by n-n

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Combination twine/parser game with simulated OS, December 25, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a fascinating Spanish Twine game that makes excellent use of both Inform 7 and Twine.

You are dying during a radioactive apocalyptic war. You are also a researcher at an advanced quantum computing simulation lab, and you have the capability of uploading your mind to the computer.

Most of the game is navigating a complex computer OS system with a variety of folders and subfolders and apps such as email and the internet.

Once you get through that large portion, there is also a small parser portion that represents setting up societal norms in a simulated society. There is also one Towers of Hanoi section, which I honestly don't generally enjoy, but at least there was significant tie-in with the game itself and it had backstory.

Overall, a very impressive work, one that I think deserves a larger audience. For at least the non-parser parts, I think this plays quite easily using google translate.


The Usher Foundation VIII: The Spiral, by Apollosboy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Madness and minotaurs in a metropolitan subway, December 24, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is the eighth in a series of short Twine games based on the central themes of the Magnus archives.

This one is based on the Spiral, associated with the feeling of losing you mind, as well as being lost.

In this Twine game, you are exploring the subway tunnels under NYC after a hurricane as part of your job, when your crew comes upon a perfectly preserved wooden door deep underground that leads into a well-lit, carpeted hallway.

The game employs some clever mechanics to track the feeling of slowly losing your senses.

My five star rating is not necessarily because I would recommend it to everyone as being an exceptional game, but because it satisfies my personal rating criteria in terms of emotional impact and interactivity.


The Usher Foundation VII: The Slaughter, by Apollosboy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Civil war reenactment gone terribly wrong, December 16, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is the 7th in a series of Twine games centered around the main themes of the Magnus Archives podcast. This one is based on the Slaughter, or fear of mass violence and death.

In this Twine game, you are hired on to help with a Civil War reenactment, helping fix uniforms, belts, etc. But one of the men has a strange book, and you almost feel like you've gone back in time...

This one didn't pull me as much as the others in this series, probably because the Slaughter has always felt like an academic fear to me, given that I've been lucky enough to avoid direct contact with war during my lifetime, only seeing it in the news. The best parts are linear and the branching parts are rather dull, so I'm glad to see this one go and move on to the next. So far this author's best games that I've seen have been ones that focus on personal connections.


Trigaea, by RynGM

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fight, upgrade, explore, recover memories, and negotiate between three factions, December 14, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

Inspired by Kinetic Mouse Car's review, I tried this very long Twine game.

It is at its core a cycle of procedurally generated combat, with upgrades that can be bought by the player. Upgrades are earned by fighting, and the more you explore and fight the more areas you unlock, which have stronger enemies with stronger rewards.

You play as a Corrector, a figure with unknown properties and goals, and you have the ability to come back from death due to an AI that has access to a cloning mechanism. Both you and the AI are missing large chunks of memories that you have to recover.

This is done by finding microchips to plug into the computer to increase its capacity and give you upgrades. Small upgrades cost just a dozen or so chips, while the biggest upgrades can cost over 500,000 chips.

The storyline is complex, and reminiscent of shows like Avatar (James Cameron one). You interact with three factions: human, robot, and alien.

There are 15 endings, corresponding roughly to which factions you support. There are some romantic figures, lots of literary references, and some psychologically intense scenes.

Overall, I found it very satisfying, and it took me at least 4 hours to complete, much of which was through fairly repetitive combat. But it was enjoyable combat, due to the constant upgrades and escalations.

Like KMC commented, there are noticeable typos, which can be distracting, and I believe the armor plating doesn't actually work (one version of it does). But these are pretty slight faults in a large game.



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